Clay Shirky on attention spans, information overload, and journalism in the new media age

I think Clay Shirky is easily one of the smartest people researching and writing about the modern media age. I really like his answers in a two part interview with CJR, this part especially:

Or look what happened right when Mac came out. Remember when the Mac came out in '84, and then in '87 they announced this sort of “desktop publishing” thing, right, and all the Linotype operators laughed until milk came out their noses. Twenty years later, the Linotype operators' union votes itself out of business. Because when the Mac shipped with desktop publishing, it certainly wasn't very good, right? Quality took a hit, everybody's getting these birthday invites with nine fonts on them and so forth. But over the course of twenty years, quality got sorted out, because in a more competitive landscape, there were more positive returns to high quality.

So I think that's going to happen here. The average quality of something written is going to fall to the floor because of the volume of written material. But the competition will mean that the premium for having something especially interesting is going to rise. And then, over the course of the next ten years, we'll sort ourselves out into some sort of new equilibrium.

Read the whole thing: Part I Part II

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